Playing to Win Is an Inside Job

When you are focused on safety, your mental energy and attention are distracted from winning. The “not losing” approach to leading fosters contracted visions and fear-based decisions. How many opportunities slip through your fingers? Even in the most challenging business environment, unexpected opportunities emerge. When your attention is on winning, you draw these opportunities to you and are keenly aware when they arise. Friends of mine at a commercial construction company know how to play to win. One of the partners told me that his company listens more closely and intently to the client. Building on the strengths of long time, successful client relationships, his company has expanded its ability to meet and exceed the needs of clients. The prevailing wisdom of planning and finding solutions starts with identifying weaknesses and problems. With a focus on problems, developing a negative culture is likely. Can your business afford this approach? Consider the Appreciative Inquiry (AI) method of change that David Cooperrider launched in 1980. Re-frame the picture of what is happening in your business from “where is the problem” or “what do we need to fix” to “what is working” or “how can we do more of this.” This approach does not ignore or negate problems but shifts the perspective to something new and of what is possible. To learn more about AI, visit http://appreciativeinquiry.case.edu Use these guidelines to set your course for the coming year: 1. Assume that more is going right than is going wrong. 2. Look for successes and strengths in people, systems, processes and results. Peter Drucker, said, “The task of organizational leadership is to create...

Goals Trump Resolutions

Resolutions have a dismal track record of success. “Eighty percent of  resolutions are lying on the floor by the end of January,” said Alan Manevitz a psychiatrist at New York Presbyterian Hospital in Manhattan in an article in The State newspaper (January 14, 2008). In January memberships at gyms and fitness clubs increase and by spring the numbers have decreased to the faithful and the committed.  When I joined the YMCA several years ago, the instructors alerted us to expect an increase in the class size after the New Year.  We made room for those who had resolved to “get healthy.” However, very few stick with it. Some of the costs of broken resolutions Proof that we can’t and that we always fail An attitude of “Oh, why bother?” No real change in our circumstance The reasons resolutions fail to deliver are numerous They are vague and often grandiose They are easy to say and hard to implement They are all or nothing What can you do to develop a track record of success? First, take a holistic view of your life and your business.  Get above the frenetic activity to look at the whole landscape. Next, consider what the most important things to YOU are. For the moment, forget about what others are saying you “should” do. Finally, with complete integrity and flawless honesty, what is your circumstance at this moment? Seven Steps to Goal Success 1.  Be clear about what you intend to create. See the end result and use all your senses to experience it. 2.  Fall in love with it. Be emotionally involved with your...

Checklists Provide Consistency and Creativity

Making a checklist or written guidelines takes time and effort initially. Some people feel that structure stifles their creativity and spontaneity.  Too much “micro-structure” like micro-managing can be counter productive. Running a business without checklists and guidelines is inefficient.  People spend valuable mental energy thinking about the next step instead of executing pre-thought-out steps.  Good opportunities are lost because you are not in a position to take advantage of them. Operating without checklists to provide a basic structure is an invitation for chaos.  People react to whatever shows up. How often have you been frustrated because the right supplies or equipment weren’t on hand to get the job done?  How much valuable time have you lost dealing with confusion that could have been prevented? People get different results from the same action. Recently I was frustrated because the lamp in my hotel room did not work.  No amount of switches and changing bulbs was successful.  Aha!  Finally I discovered the lamp was not plugged into the wall.  After moving a heavy piece of furniture to plug in the lamp, I had light.  Imagine an item on a checklist for the housekeeping staff that said, “all lights working”? Is it baptism by fire for new hires in your business? Do your most valuable assets, your people, have guidelines and checklists to help them learn how to produce consistent results to your standard of excellence? My first experience with a real estate closing was evidence of the value of checklists.  The attorney didn’t have the necessary forms.  He didn’t appear to know what documents and forms we needed.  What he did...

High Accountability in a Blameless Culture

A top priority for any business is organizational performance.  It’s not enough to develop and communicate strategies throughout the company. Strategies and goals must be executed.  In 2004 Ernst & Young reported that “66% of corporate strategies are not implemented.” Organizations that have a culture of accountability produce better results. When people at all levels within your organization have a clear understanding of what is expected they take responsibility for making it happen.  How do you change a culture of blaming and finger pointing to one of accountability? >>>>>Hire disciplined people.  Take the time required to find people who are personally disciplined.  First, the cost to replace an employee is 1.5 times their annual salary.  Second, people who are self disciplined go to great lengths to fulfill their responsibilities.  They do not offer excuses for poor performance.  When your people have a clear understanding about goals, responsibilities, and expectations and are supported by the necessary resources, you are free to manage systems and processes not people. >>>>>Have clarity about the vision, values and strategies. If you don’t know where you are going, it’s hard to get there and impossible to know when you’ve arrived.  People like to be led by someone who knows where they are going and why.  When you have articulated and put into writing what you intend to create together, people who have the same enthusiasm and passion that you have, are engaged. You share the same values and have a common standard by which to make choices day by day at all levels in the organization. Clarity begins at the top. >>>>>Create a framework in...

Simple, Small Strategies for Success

Is God or the Devil lurking in the details (small strategies)? The small strategies are critically important to your enterprise. Many of us get so caught up in the big important things we neglect the little things until they show up at the worst possible time to bite us in the worst possible place. What criteria are we looking for? Criteria of Simple, Small Strategies for Short Term Success: 1. Simple and fast to implement 2. Easy for everyone to understand 3. Quick to produce visible results 4. Small investments compared to payoff When Rudy Giuliani was mayor of New York City he inherited “squeegee men.”  This brigade of men would saunter up to a car stopped at a red light or caught in traffic and spray the windshield then wipe it off with a rag, newspaper or stick wrapped in cloth.  If the driver did not respond to a request for payment, they were often subjected to varying levels of intimidation.  The “squeegee men” would spit on the windshield or kick the door if the driver did not pay. Giuliani writes in his new book, Leadership, that despite estimates of at least 2,000 “squeegee men,” there were actually only 180 of them.  A handful of people were creating a miserable impression of the city.  The aggressive ones worked the bridges and tunnels, major tourist portals. The simple, small strategy was to give them a ticket for jaywalking and arrest the ones who resisted.  Giuliani writes, “In under a month, we were able to reduce the problem dramatically.  Things had visibly improved.  New Yorkers loved it….” Criteria of Simple,...

Maximize Employee Strengths to Maximize Your Results

You can’t make a silk purse from a sow’s ear. Even the exquisite, highly prized orchid is a weed when it is growing in a corn field.  Weeds are flowers growing in the wrong place. How many companies unknowingly place employees in the wrong role and expect them to excel and win for the company?  It is a recipe for burnout and low productivity. In a report by American Society of Training and Development, United States companies spend $50 billion training employees.  How much do companies invest trying to minimize employee weaknesses?  A better return on your training  investment is maximizing employee strengths.  Improve knowledge and skill that enhances the natural talents of your employees. The Gallup Organization asked 1.7 million employees in their total database if they had the “opportunity to do what I do best” every day.  Only 20% of employees of the large companies surveyed felt they were using their strengths every day. In First, Break All the Rules, Marcus Buckingham and Curt Coffman describe two faulty assumption about people that most organizations make: 1.  Each person can learn to be competent in almost anything. 2.  Each person’s greatest room for growth is in his or her areas of greatest weakness Begin with a correct belief about people and their capacities, and everything that flows from that — hiring, performance measurements, training, and developing your team –will be correct. In Now, Discover Your Strengths Marcus Buckingham and Donald O. Clifton offer two assumptions that guide the world’s best managers: 1.  Each person’s talents are enduring and unique 2.  Each person’s greatest room for growth is in...